Friday, September 14, 2007

Microbes Have Consciousness

Despite their lousy name, “Slime Molds” are among the most amazing organisms in existence. During most of their lives they live as individual cells on the forest floor. They look and behave much like amoebas, spending their time scavenging for food among the detritus on the ground. They are especially fond of cow dung and rotting wood because these are rich in bacteria, the slime molds’ food of preference. However, on occasion, these solitary creatures will come together in large numbers to form a colony, called a plasmodium. Amazingly, slime mold plasmodiums look and behave like multi-cellular organisms. Some look like fungi, others like slugs. These plasmodium move about and can travel up to several feet a day.

When conditions for the colony are not favorable, the plasmodium may produce a stalk with a puffball full of spores. The puffball releases spores into the wind, which are carried off and produce more of the amoeba-like slime molds. After this reproductive action, the plasmodium may again disaggregate into individual cells that return to their solitary lives.

How is this possible? These individual cells appear to act with conscious volition. How do they communicate? How do they know how to differentiate into specialized organs?

As amazing as this cellular level intelligence is, a new, even more amazing phenomenon has been discovered at the sub-cellular level. Labeled “Natural Genetic Engineering” by Dr. James Shapiro, a University of Chicago Geneticist and Biochemist, and brought to light by Dr. Barbara McClintock in her 1983 Nobel Prize Acceptance Address, predictably, this stunning discovery has been largely ignored by the media.

Natural genetic engineering is the process by which cells modify their own DNA. If you are not familiar with this process, your eyes are not deceiving you, it actually happens. Cells, under challenge from something in their environment, can restructure their own DNA, thereby changing their internal biochemical capabilities. This restructuring process enables the cells to produce new proteins and other molecular products needed for survival.

Why This is Important

Dr. Shapiro has come under criticism and has had difficulty getting at least one paper published because of the implications of his work. The quotation below shows why.

“The idea of natural genetic engineering is controversial to some because it implies the existence of an “engineer” to decide when restructuring should occur.”… “The obvious problem is that it is hard to imagine material causes alone producing sentience and consciousness via random interactions. The sentience, together with messages in DNA and extrodinarily sophisticated genetic code and information processing systems, are arguably a large number of “smoking guns” for an intelligent cause operating in the system itself.”

The problem comes down to this: cells have no brains and no nervous systems to direct their activities, so where is the intelligence coming from that directs the cells to perform intricate, delicate surgery on their own genes? It would be easier for a human to perform complex brain surgery on him or herself; so, how is it possible for a cell to modify its own genetic code?

The answer of course is obvious to all except those who refuse to accept the truth glaring starkly in their faces. There are, of course, intervening natural mechanisms, which mediate these biological processes; however, God is the intelligence behind it all.

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